Tuesday, May 26, 2009

tuesday and everything after

It's Tuesday.

That means I should write a blog post. Tuesday is blog post day.

Why Tuesday?

Well, weekends are out - I'm usually too busy to write, and everyone's too busy to read. Monday is too "back to work" and Friday is all "weekend's here!" Wednesday is "hump day" and Thursday is "almost Friday!" So, Tuesday.

But yesterday was a holiday, so this feels more like Monday. We had a lovely long weekend. I took Friday off and went to see Star Trek with Lisa. Much fun. We had sushi for lunch and had a nice relaxing time with no kids in tow. Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were family days. Hanging out with the kids. Seeing friends. Going to the park. Bailing on plans to go to the beach (sorry, Pete). Putting a bench around our tree in the backyard. Other than a marked shortage of naps for me, it was a wonderful long weekend.

Today the California Supreme Court upheld the ban on same-sex marriage put in place last year by Proposition 8.

I 100% expected this, but it still makes me sad.

I expected it because the court wasn't ruling on the merits of same-sex marriage. They did that already. In spring 2008 when they said it was legal under the state constitution for same-sex couples to marry. So a lot of gay couples got married. Friends of ours. And family. Then some folks with lots of money put an initiative on the ballot last fall and changed the state constitution. So gay marriage was no longer legal. So today the court ruled on whether the process surrounding that ballot initiative was legal, and they said it was, so gay marriage is out. But, since it was legal for a few months, anyone who got married then is still married. Which is nice, I guess. Also, confusing.

This isn't a political blog. It's a parenting blog, basically. Which means it's a family blog. And this is about family. Very close friends and members of my family are gay. Some of them are married. So far this has not caused the destruction of a single straight marriage that I know of. I've seen several marriages fall apart recently. It's terrible to watch friends go through the deconstruction of everything they thought they would be doing for the rest of their lives. It's heartbreaking. And sad. And not one of them blamed gay marriage.

Prop 8 proved what I've believed for a long time: the California ballot initiative process is a disaster. Lawmaking shouldn't be left to the general public. Politicians are far from perfect, but we elect and pay them to do a job: make laws. We give them that authority and responsibility to understand the implications of the laws they make and to do the right thing. They screw it up a lot, but it's their job. It's not our job.

Even if you think we should vote on how to spend money or on taxes or bond measures, civil rights should not be subject to majority rule. The very concept of civil rights hinges on protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority. If left to voter approval, we'd still have racial segregation in certain parts of the country. There are many more persuasive arguments for gay marriage than any I could make. I doubt I'm going to change anyone's mind. Sadly, I'm not sure minds can be changed on this issue. I hope I'm wrong. Everyone should have the right to marry the person they love. We need our leaders to lead. This shouldn't be about what people think. It's about what's right.

So, I'm disappointed in California, the only place I've ever lived.

But Star Trek was cool. So there's that.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

sublime, ridiculous

I saw two performances yesterday that were as far apart as they could possibly be in almost every way.

First I watched my almost-four-year-old son Owen sing and dance and play and yawn and smile and wave his way through his preschool music concert. It was one of the greatest things I've ever seen. I don't know if anyone whose kid wasn't in it would agree, but for me it was amazing.

Then last night I watched the almost-but-not-quite season finale of American Idol. It was horrible. Mr. Lady summed up many of the ways it was horrible quite well in this MamaPop review, so I won't rehash all of that. I just want to explain how seeing these two things in one day made my head hurt and my heart ache, not necessarily in that order. It was everything that's amazing and wonderful about music held up against everything that's wrong with the music industry.

First, why is there music? I think because of how it makes us feel. Good, bad, happy, sad, excited, scared. Music triggers emotions. It's both personal and communal. You can experience music alone, and it can be fantastic, and then there's this other thing that happens when you're part of a group hearing the same piece of music together. It can transcend the individual experience. It's not always better, but it definitely has the capacity to be more, certainly different.

Watching Owen and his schoolmates perform was the second thing - the community experience, and it rocked. We were all there living in this amazing moment of musical expression and togetherness. The music was all right, but the connection between the performers (our kids) and the audience (we parents) was powerful. It felt really good. We were happy to see our kids up there, and nervous for them to do well and have fun and not be freaked out, and overwhelmed by how they're growing up and what it all means and we're all feeling all this together. And it was awe inspiring. It inspired awe.

Then there was American Idol. This thing costs millions of dollars. It's tarted up like a showgirl in Vegas, and many millions of people are watching it on TV. It's down to two guys after months of basically weekly auditions, watching their fellow performers fall one by one around them. And they're up there jumping through vocal hoops yet again for the judges and the audience and the cameras. And then they bring out a quasi-established guest "star" and she sings some crappy song as a "big finish" and you know what? It sucked. Not them, really. They're ok. Pretty good, to be fair. They can sing, each has his thing, and they've clearly been working their asses off and they're basically pretty good. But what they're doing up there is the exact opposite of what music should be. It's all showing off and trying to create a personna and nailing some kind of style. It isn't about communicating. It isn't about sharing. It's purely commercial. It's sales. It's which of these guys will sell more songs/albums/tickets/t-shirts/action figures. That might not be what it's about for all the people watching, exactly, but that's what's it's actually about.

And I think about Owen up there creating this amazing experience for a few people in a room through music. And I think that is what music is really for. And I struggle to work out how to fold music into my sons' lives in a way that makes them cherish that. The community, the feelings, the making of music. While rejecting the artifice and glitz and bullshit that is American Idol.

As I listened to "No Boundaries," I longed for "Goodbye Now and Thank You."

video

Edit: I just realized this is my 10th post on this blog. Hurray for round numbers! Now, let's see if this one goes to 11.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

kid's eye view

Owen loves taking pictures. Lately he loves taking pictures with my phone. We bought a new digital camera recently and offered Owen our perfectly good but somewhat older one. He wants nothing to do with it. He wants my phone. Of course, when not being used as a camera, my phone also doubles as a lightsaber, so can you blame him really?

Here are a few of the shots Owen took this weekend.


Starbucks with Dad

Playdate

Little brother's snacks

Little brother

Little brother!!!

Feet

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

mother's day 2009

Owen picked his own gift for his mom this Mother's Day. He's almost 4, and was excited about a secret mission with Dad to pick out a surprise for Mom. I tried to drive home how we shouldn't tell Mommy what we were getting her because we wanted it to be a surprise on Mother's Day. Any guesses how that went?

If you haven't known many 4-year olds, you may not realize that a gift chosen by a 4-year old is really a gift FOR said 4-year old, cleverly disguised as being for someone else. This works especially well when the recipient is a member of the same household, as it gives the 4-year old unfettered access to said gift after it's given. 4-year olds are adorable, charming, and unequivocally selfish, especially when it comes to presents. Since getting a Transformers toy (Optimus Prime, if you're keeping score) for Christmas, Owen's been intent on acquiring additional Transformers for himself the rest of the family. I got Megatron for my birthday, he wants to get Bumblebee for his brother "when he's a little bigger" (he's 11 months) and has been saying Mommy should have Prowl. So that's pretty much what Lisa expected for Mother's Day from Owen. Every mother's dream.

So I was pretty excited when we got to Target and spotted something else he'd wanted to get "for her" that hadn't come up for a while. She wouldn't expect this, so we might actually have a shot at surprising her. Though still basically a bowling ball with "Homer" written on it, it did have a slightly better chance of being something Mommy would even have fun with than a Transformer. After getting it gift wrapped at Paper. stopping so Owen could pee (and Daddy could pick up a case of wine) at Colorado Wine Company, and picking up lunch at The Coffee Table, we headed home.

We sat down at the table to eat. Owen and I had worked out a plan to leave the presents in the car until tomorrow, so Lisa could open them and be surprised on Mother's Day. Owen seemed cool with this, but when she asked him if he'd had fun on our adventure, it took abut 10 seconds before he chimed in with "I can't tell you what we got for you, but when you open it you'll see it's the Mace Windu one." We smiled at each other and started laughing. Mommy knows her Star Wars characters. Element of surprise, gone. Cat, say goodbye to bag.

Happy Mother's Day, Mommy. Hope you like your lightsaber.



p.s. Mommy will also be getting something from Daddy, something which is actually for her and which I think she'll like quite a lot.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

will walk for shoes

Just a quick post to share some video of Nicholas' early bipedal adventures. This video is from yesterday and I swear as of today he's talking twice as far. He has on fear, which is very different from Owen at that age, who was very cautious.


Speaking of Owen, notice him adjusting a scarf on the blue alien riding creature he calls Cloudy. He may be a budding fashion designer.

video

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

keeping our kids safe

A friend (who is currently childless, incidentally) sent me this link: Stop worrying about your children! Maybe she thinks I worry too much? It's an article on Salon.com by Katharine Mieszkowski, profiling Lenore Skenazy. Here's the summary:

Kids today are just as safe as they were in the '70s, says "Free-Range Kids" author Lenore Skenazy, and what's really distressing is an alarmist culture that refuses to let them grow up.
I tweeted this link (that's twitterspeak. if confused, see this post) and set off a really active and passionate discussion about how best to keep our kids safe.

What we all seemed to agree on was this: we must strike a balance between raising our kids in a bubble and letting them run wild without constraint. But the space between those two extremes is vast, and enough to leave this parent scratching his bald head wondering what to do.

I don't know the answer, but of course I have some thoughts. Here are a few that came up during the discussion, and after.

I had a lot of freedom as a kid, and spent a lot of time hanging out unsupervised with my friends. My parents worked when I was young. I don't remember exactly how old I was when I started getting myself to and home from school on my own, but I think it was around 10. Well before that I was riding my bike or walking all over the place with my parents not really knowing where I was.

My wife grew up in New York City. She was riding buses alone by age 8 and subways by 11. This was when the crime rate in NYC was much higher than it is today (she'd rather I didn't say EXACTLY when this was), yet many people who read the article thought it was crazy for her to let her 9-yr old ride the train alone.

The subject of sex offenders came up. Are we better off knowing about registered sex offenders in our neighborhoods? At least the ones that have been a) convicted and b) honest about their current location? It is probably better to know than not know, but it's also hard to know exactly what to do with the information. I also suspect it's more important to teach our children how to behave with people they don't know (and those they do) than it is to keep a constant watch on this house or that apartment building.

I want to be logical and level headed about how I raise my children. But I'm terrified that anything bad might happen to them, and want to do whatever I can to prevent that. At the same time, I want them to be self-reliant, independent, and not live in fear.

And that's really the biggest issue here: fear. I think we're much more afraid of all the horrible things that might happen now than our parents were, yet I think the chances of those things happening are generally no higher. In some cases they're actually lower. But what are odds when it's your own kids in question? The chances of getting attacked by a shark are ridiculously low. They're even lower if you never go in the ocean.

Are we more realistic and better educated about the dangers of life, and protecting our kids accordingly? Or are we irrationally influenced by the scare tactics of the media (swine flu, anyone?) into sheltering our kids beyond reason?

I don't know the answer. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please comment.

Edit: After I posted this last night I spotted this story about a mom in New York who spent the night in jail after dropping her kids on the side of the road for misbehaving in the car. It reminds me that in addition to the moral, ethical, and just general right-minded parenting questions this issue raises, there are also legal issues to consider. Jeez, as if we didn't have enough to worry about!

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